According to the Mayo Clinic, nail fungus, also called onychomycosis, is a common condition that begins as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your fingernail or toenail. As the fungal infection progresses and grows deeper, your nails might become thicker, discolored, or crumble at the edge.
The good news is that if you aren’t bothered by the infection and it doesn’t look too severe, you may not need any treatment. However, if it is causing you pain or discomfort, you might want to consider looking into at-home treatment or medications. As with any medical condition, contact a doctor if symptoms don’t improve or worsen in time.
Symptoms of Nail Fungus
According to the Mayo Clinic, you may have nail fungus if one or more of your nails are:
- Whitish to yellow-brown discoloration
- Brittle, crumbly or ragged
- Distorted in shape
- A dark color, caused by debris building up under your nail
- Smelling slightly foul
Nail fungus can affect both fingernails and toenails, but it’s more common in toenails.
Who Is More Likely to Be Affected?
The Mayo Clinic states that fungal nail infection can develop in people at any age, but it’s more common in older adults. As we age, our nails do too, and can become brittle and dry as a result. When our nails crack, fungi can enter more easily and grow. In addition, people with reduced blood circulation in the feet, and people with a weakened immune system, are more at risk.
Other Risk Factors
According to Mayo Clinic, other risk factors of developing nail fungus include:
- Sweating heavily
- Having a history of athlete’s foot
- Walking barefoot in damp communal areas, such as swimming pools, gyms and shower rooms
- Having a minor skin or nail injury or a skin condition, such as psoriasis
- Having diabetes, circulation problems or a weakened immune system
Complications of Nail Fungus
A severe case of nail fungus that goes untreated may cause permanent damage to your nails. Worse, the infection can spread beyond your toes to other areas of the body. As listed above, you are more at risk of these complications if you have a weakened immune system as a result of medication use, diabetes, or other conditions. This is why it is especially important to see a doctor if you have diabetes and think you are developing a nail fungus.
Prevention for Nail Fungus
The Mayo Clinic lists the following as possible ways you can lower your risk of developing nail fungus:
- Wash your hands and feet regularly, and moisturize afterward
- Trim nails straight across, smooth the edges with a file and file down thickened areas. Disinfect your nail clippers after each use.
- Wear sweat-absorbing socks or change your socks throughout the day
- Choose shoes made of materials that breathe
- Discard old shoes or treat them with disinfectants or antifungal powders
- Wear footwear in pool areas and locker rooms
- Choose a nail salon that uses sterilized manicure tools for each customer
- Give up nail polish and artificial nails
For more information on nail fungus, visit www.MayoClinic.com.